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Yonaguni residents’ support for GSDF deployment to boost Japan’s deterrence

  • 2015-02-23 15:00:00
  • , Yomiuri
  • Translation

(Yomiuri: February 23, 2015 – p. 2)

 

 The government has been planning to deploy Ground Self-Defense Force to Yonaguni Island to bolster the country’s defenses along the Nansei Islands and counter China’s growing maritime might. With a majority of island residents voting in favor of the GSDF deployment in a Feb. 22 referendum, the government is poised to advance its plan to strengthen national security.

 

 “The GSDF deployment is aimed at protecting our land and people and is essential for maintaining regional peace and security and strengthening our response to natural disasters,” said Defense Minister Gen Nakatani on the evening of Feb. 22. “I would like to ask local residents for their cooperation.”

 

 The area stretching about 500 km from the main island of Okinawa to Yonaguni has no GSDF presence. “Deploying the SDF at the westernmost point of the Japan’s territory would be the best deterrent,” said a senior Defense Ministry official.

 

 The GSDF unit to be dispatched to Yonaguni will be responsible for monitoring warships and aircraft traveling in the vicinity.

 

 The Chinese military has been stepping its presence in the Japanese waters including the ocean around the Nansei Islands. In October 2012, it was confirmed for the first time that seven Chinese warships traveled northward in the waters between Yonaguni and Nakanokami Island, located close to Iriomote Island. The 2014 White Paper on Defense pointed to an increasing number of Chinese naval fleets traversing Japanese waters to enter the Pacific Ocean and warned that such moves are becoming common.

 

 Yonaguni only has two police officers stationed on it and residents have long feared that “two handguns” are not sufficient to protect the island located on the national border. The waters around the Senkaku Islands, located about 150 km north of Yonaguni, are also subject constant incursions by Chinese naval ships.

 

 “With the security environment surrounding Asia changing rapidly, the SDF deployment will also help prepare for contingencies,” said a government official.

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